Edge Effects on Avian Diversity and Density of Native Grass Conservation Buffers

Heidi L. Adams1, *, L. Wes Burger2, Sam Riffell2
1 School of Forestry, Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, LA 71272, USA
2 Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762, USA

© 2015 Adams et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the School of Forestry, Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, LA 71272, USA; Tel: (318)257-2947; E-mail:


Conservation Reserve Program Conservation Practice 33 (CP33: Conservation Buffers for Upland Birds) provides habitat for grassland birds in agriculture-dominated landscapes. However, landscape context and adjacency of other land covers may influence colonization, occupancy, and reproductive performance of breeding grassland birds in buffers. Our objective was to determine how edge effects influence diversity and density of breeding grassland birds in CP33 buffers. Data collected during transect surveys in CP33 buffers at a privately-owned farm in Clay County, Mississippi, USA during the 2007􀀁2009 breeding seasons indicated that buffers with a woody edge had the least diversity and density of grassland and facultative grassland birds. Dickcissels (Spiza americana), the most abundant grassland bird species detected in buffers, had a lower density in woodland-bordered buffers than in grassland-bordered buffers. Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) had a lower density in buffers adjacent to woodlands than buffers adjacent to developed areas and those bordered on both sides by crop fields. Conversely, Indigo Buntings, (Passerina cyanea) a woodland edge species, had the greatest density in woodland-bordered buffers when compared to buffers adjacent to grassland and developed areas. These results demonstrate that adjacency influences colonization processes and conservation design should explicitly incorporate local landscape context in field and farm-scale conservation plans. Where conservation of obligate grassland birds is a primary objective of native grass conservation buffers, avoidance of buffer establishment adjacent to woodlands may maximize environmental services as measured by grassland bird diversity and density.

Keywords: Agelaius phoeniceus, avian density, avian diversity, conservation buffers, edge effects, Passerina cyanea, Spizaamericana.